E-commerce growth stabilizes in February; Fashion takes the top place as Fashion Shoppers’ satisfaction with delivery time improves

In one of our earlier blog posts about the ‘Top 6 most important developments in e-commerce in 2020’ we list what the most important developments from a consumer behavior perspective were in 2020. But how did consumers shop in specific product categories? And particularly in Fashion, the biggest online product category of all? How satisfied are consumers with merchants’ performance and how did that develop over time? And more importantly, what is the current state of Fashion Shoppers’ satisfaction with merchants’ performance? To answer all these questions, we will discuss overall e-commerce development and development of the product categories over 2020 and dive into Fashion Shoppers’ (current) satisfaction levels afterwards. Keep reading!

E-commerce growth stabilizes in February

In previous blog posts about the general development of e-commerce purchases, we see that purchases peak in 2020 at the end of Q4, during peak season. Particularly the peak season sales in November and December generated a massive increase in online purchases. As expected, we then see online purchase growth slowing down in January and stabilizing in February. 

Consumers focus e-commerce purchases on Fashion/Cosmetics, Food and Home in February

The most important driver behind the peak in online purchases in Q4 – and the driver behind the slowing down in January – is a shift in products and services that consumers buy. Purchases in Entertainment and Toys peaked in November/December. This is almost certainly the result of Christmas gift shopping and consumers spending more time at home due to the holidays, hence they have a larger need to be entertained. Following peak season, we see that Fashion/ Cosmetics, Food and Home purchases primarily drive e-commerce in the Netherlands, Germany and Norway in January and February.

Dutch consumers increase purchases in the Entertainment categories (Media/Electronics and Sports/Craft/Play) during peak season and over Christmas. But we see that share decrease significantly in January. In particular, we see that Toys purchases decrease dramatically in the Netherlands, from 16% of Dutch consumers having made at least one online Toys purchase in December to 8% having done so in February. Another category that reaches a high in peak season, but reduces significantly afterwards is Media (Books, Movies, Games, Music), from 16% of online shoppers in December to 11% in February. Categories in the Netherlands that continue to attract consumers to online channels in February Fashion/Cosmetics, are Household/Home Improvement and Food/Health Products.

In Germany, we see the same patterns as in the Netherlands. The share of consumers who make at least one purchase in Entertainment (Media/Electronics and Sports/Craft/Play) decreases significantly in January, after a peak in purchases during November and December – as mentioned almost certainly due to Christmas gift shopping and holidays. In this light, we also see that Toys purchases decrease dramatically, from 15% of German consumers having made at least one online Toys purchase in December to 7% having done so in February. And online purchases in Media drop from 20% of online shoppers in December to 15% in February. But the number of consumers who purchase Food/Health products online in February increases - this includes Groceries, Take-Away Food and Health Products.

In Norway, the share of consumers who make at least one purchase in Sports/Craft/Play and Household/Home Improvement decreases significantly in January. Media/Electronics purchases decline in January, but not as dramatically. These were also the big Christmas shopping categories that experienced a heavy increase in shoppers during peak season. We see that purchases of Toys decrease, from 7% of Norwegian consumers having made at least one online Toys purchase in December to 3% having done so in February. , Fashion/Cosmetics remains the driver of Norwegian e-commerce in February, followed by purchases in Food.

Online Fashion Shoppers’ satisfaction with merchants’ performance

Fashion/Cosmetics is the largest online product category: between 30-35% of consumers make at least one monthly purchase in Fashion/Cosmetics. As a result this category forms the expectations of online shoppers in general. This is why we zoom into how Fashion/Cosmetics Shoppers’ satisfaction with merchants develops over time.

In April/May 2020 (the pandemic’s ‘first wave’ and a subsequent peak in online purchases), online Fashion/Cosmetics Shoppers in the Netherlands are particularly dissatisfied with merchants’ ability to deliver products on time. By September, the relative customer satisfaction returns to normal. As the online Fashion/Cosmetics Shopper base and purchase volumes grow through the autumn and into peak season, we see consumers’ satisfaction with delivery time reduce, but not as much as in April/May - a remarkable improvement by merchants. Fashion/Cosmetics Shoppers’ lower expectations of fast delivery times during peak season can also impact these numbers. But this effect is likely small when taking the difference in satisfaction levels between the two moments into consideration. Moving further along and into 2021, we see that Dutch online Fashion/Cosmetics Shoppers grow less satisfied with product availability as well as price.

Online Fashion/Cosmetics Shoppers in Germany also reacted to merchants’ ability to deliver products on time in April/May 2020. But by September, the one aspect that German online Fashion Shoppers are most satisfied with is in fact ‘fast delivery time’. However, satisfaction levels take a hit during the first weeks of peak season (October-November) - as the Fashion/Cosmetics shopper base and purchase volumes grow. Since then, satisfaction with delivery time increases steadily, continuing to climb in January and February 2021.

And in Norway, Fashion/Cosmetics Shoppers’ satisfaction with delivery time also takes a hit during the ‘first wave’ and during the autumn – a pattern that we see in the Netherlands and Germany as well. But overall, Fashion/Cosmetics shoppers’ satisfaction with merchants does not show a comparable dramatic shift as in the the other two countries. In Norway, satisfaction with delivery time does not dip in November and December. Instead, Fashion/Cosmetics Shoppers are significantly more satisfied with this aspect in February. Another distinguishing aspect for Norwegian Fashion/Cosmetics Shoppers is the high level of satisfaction with low prices online.

What is next?

We will be back with a forecast for April soon. Stay tuned!